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flight, dead and dying blocked up the few and narrow outlets
from the work. Horses and men ran in wild confusion from
side to side, trying to avoid the fatal fire ; groups were employed
in breaking down and trying to force a passage through, the
defences, while the brave, who disdained to fly, still offered a
feeble and ineffectual opposition to the advancing troops. The
grey-headed Chobwas of the Shaans, in particular, showed a
noble example to their men, sword in hand singly maintaining
the unequal conquest ; nor could signs or gestures of good
treatment induce them to forbearance attacking all who offered
to approach them with humane or friendly feelings, they only
sought the death which too many of them found. Maha
Nemiou himself fell while bravely urging his men to stand their
ground, and his faithful attendants being likewise killed by the
promiscuous fire while in the act of carrying him off, his body
with his sword, Wonghee's chain, and other insignia of office,
were found among the dead."

It should be stated that the advance party

Life of Sir George Pollock. 135

that carried the works was led by Colonel (after-
wards Sir Henry) Godwin, a most gallant and
meritorious officer, who subsequently commanded
in the second Burmese war. One of the Shaan
ladies, a girl of seventeen, and described as of
great beauty, was found lying outside the stockade,
killed either by a grape-shot or musket ball. Be-
ing habited in a black jacket and large straw hat,
similar to that worn by the men, her sex was at
first not known; but when the soldiers discovered
that they had unwittingly caused the young
creature's death, they immediately deposited her
body in a grave, with many sincere though rough
expressions of regret at her sad fate. In the mean-
time Sir A. Campbell's column, under his own
direction, was about a mile and a half distant to his
colleague's left and rear. He, in consequence, de-
tached Brigadier Elrington to guard the ford at
Zeoup, the main road leading to Neoun-ben-Zeik,
and the position of the Kee Wonghee, while with
the rest of the column he pushed on towards Sagee,
in the hope of falling upon the enemy when
retiring upon Wattegaum. The division met the
panic-struck fugitives in the act of emerging from
the jungle and crossing the Nawine river, when his
horse artillery immediately unlimbered, and opened
a heavy fire upon the crowded ford. Another of the
Shaan ladies was now observed flying on horseback
with the defeated remnant of her people, but before

136 Life of Sir George Pollock.

she could gain the opposite bank of the river, where
the forest would have afforded protection, a shrapnel-
shell exploded above her head, and she fell from her
horse into the water ; but whether she was killed or
only frightened could not be ascertained, as she was
immediately borne off by her attendants. This un-
expected salute from a quarter where no enemy was
expected, completed the consternation and defeat of
the Burmese, left wing. Seeing the British infantry
approaching their line of retreat, they thought only
of their own safety, and, quickly dispersing, betook
themselves to the surrounding jungles.

The entire plan was admirably conceived and ably
carried out. The British had to contend with every
disadvantage of a difficult and enclosed country, nor
did their information as to the position occupied by the
Burmese, enable the generals to make any previous
concerted arrangement for intercepting the retreat of
an enemy to whom every footpath in the jungle was
familiar, and whose advance or flight, in the event of
defeat, would be made by every path that promised
success or safety at the moment.

In his diary, Greorge Pollock thus briefly refers to
this action, so well planned and judiciously carried
out, and the success of which was in no small
measure due to the smart manner in which he
brought his guns into action and breached the
stockades :

" We came upon the stockades at Simbike very unexpectedly

Life of Sir George Pollock. 137

on both sides. Some of the enemy were ontside the first
stockade ; our advanced party fired upon them, and followed
them into the work. Two 5-inch howitzers were in front of the
column, and with them taking a circuit to the right, Captain
Biddulph opened a fire on the next stockade, after firing a few
rounds within 150 yards. The enemy, protected by a breastwork,
opened a sharp fire, and, as our men were falling fast, General
Cotton ordered the advance, and led them to the attack. In a
quarter of an hour or twenty minutes not a man of the enemy
was to be seen except killed and wounded and a few prisoners.
We suffered rather severely. Sir Archibald Campbell's column
reached the vicinity of the stockades on the opposite side of
a nullah just as we had turned the enemy out of the last of

The Shaans fled towards Wattegaum, but our
troops were much too fatigued to pursue them. Piling
their arms, they were allowed a couple of hours' rest,
and arrangements were at once made for returning
the same night as far as the ford on the Nawine river,
which had been crossed by Sir A. Campbell in the
morning. From thence it was proposed to move on
the following morning along a pathway that led
towards the enemy's centre, commanded by the Kee
Wonghee in person. The day had long closed in ere
the rear of the column arrived upon its camping -
ground, at Zeoup, where the troops bivouacked for the
night. There were no tents, but such a discomfort
was little recked of by the soldiers, who, after a hasty
meal, flung themselves on the ground, and slept the
sleep of the weary. Early on the morning of the
2nd December the army was again in motion, follow-
ing the only track that led towards the river, through a

138 Life of Sir George Pollock.

dense forest. The first division led in files along the
path, and General Cotton with the Madras Division
(with which was Colonel Pollock) followed in the rear.
On arriving within two miles of Napadee the British
troops separated into two columns, Sir Archibald
Campbell making preparations to attack in front,
while General Cotton proceeded in a circuitous direc-
tion, having received orders to explore every opening
that presented itself during the march, and to use his
utmost endeavours to force a passage through the
forest to the right, so as to fall on the Burmese left
flank, which was to be the signal for a general assault
in front. General Cotton was, however, unable to
penetrate the forest, and the Commander-in-Chief at
length ordered the assault. This was carried out in
the most gallant manner by a brigade under Colonel
Elrington, supported by the flotilla, which captured all
the enemy's boats and stores. Between forty and fifty
pieces of artillery were taken, while the Burmese lost
heavily in killed and wounded, besides nearly one-third
of their entire force through desertions. The British
casualties in these operations amounted to 172 killed
and wounded, among whom were six officers in the
former category, and the same number in the latter.
Colonel Pollock makes the following entry in his
diary regarding the march of the division to which
he was attached :

"2nd December. Moved at daylight in the rear of Sir A.
Campbell's army with two 5J-inch mortars and two 6-pounders.
The remainder went to Prome. After proceeding some miles

Life of Sir George Pollock. 139

the two columns separated. Sir Archibald to take the stockade,
while we remained on the plain. After halting some time we
endeavoured to penetrate a jungle, with grass five feet high, and
certainly so far succeeded that we kept the wheels of the guns
in ruts of an old road, and could see about twenty paces on
either side ; but as to acting with effect had an enemy appeared,
the attempt would have been hopeless. We heard occasional
firing, but not sufficient, as we thought, for an assault. Sir A.
Campbell carried the stockades ; it was on this occasion that
Captain Lumsden was wounded by one of our own shells ; he
had a narrow escape. General Cotton became anxious, and
determined on joining Sir A. Campbell to assist ; he accordingly
ordered the guns back to the plain to be protected by the 41st,
and there we bivouacked for the night.

" 3rd. This morning we were first ordered to join General
Cotton, but after proceeding a few hundred yards the artillery
was directed to remain on the plain, and the 41st to join
General Cotton. The officers (some of them) contrived to get
a covering during the night, but for two days we were con-
stantly on the move. On this day we pitched a tent about
10 A.M., the men still without them. In the afternoon, a little
before sunset, Sir A. Campbell's division bivouacked in our rear.
On our return from Simbike our mess servants, thinking we
were returning to Prome, went there with all we had to eat and
drink, and did not join us again until late in the forenoon of
this day.

"4^. Halted. I went into Prome about bullocks, and to
make arrangements. The pioneers, I have been told, have been
employed destroying the stockades on the banks of the river."

The Commander-in-Chief, in his despatches, made
favourable mention of the services of Greorge Pollock
during these eventful days, and General Cotton
candidly owned that his success of the 1st was due
to his commandant of artillery.

Although the left and centre of the Burmese army
was thus dispersed, the Suddah Woon with his division

140 Life of Sir George Pollock.

still remained in the stockades on the right bank.
Accordingly, on the 5th December, General Cotton,
with a portion of his division, crossed over and expelled
them with but little opposition. The loss the Burmese
army suffered in these operations was supposed to
amount to between 2,000 and 3,000 men, besides
which, the troops of which it was composed were
completely disorganized. The Shaans also, with the
exception of 2,000 men, had deserted in a body, and
were making the best of their way back to their own
province of Laos. The Burmese leaders, with the
remnant of their army, now retired to Meeayday, and
on their retreat the strong stockades that had been
erected at Pulloh and at other points were evacuated,
though by their position and strength they were
admirably calculated to delay, if not to baffle, any
troops not well provided with artillery. For a few
days the British army encamped, waiting for its
baggage, the first division with head-quarters and
the commissariat of the army on the plain of Natalain,
eight miles in front of Prome ; the second division,
under General Cotton, being assembled at some dis-
tance to the left, upon a road leading to Meeayday,
running parallel with the river, with instructions to
move in communication with Commodore Sir James
Brisbane and the flotilla. The route of the first
division was by Wattegaum and Seindoup to Meeay-
day, and it was to precede the Madras column by
three days.

The want of success of General Morrison in Arracan

Life of Sir George Pollock. 141

threw the onus of bringing the war to a successful
conclusion wholly on the army of the Irrawaddy ;
but these troops, confident in themselves and their
gallant leader, who had moreover won their respect
and affection by his uniform consideration for their
comfort, did not flinch from the task ; and though
only numbering 4,500 men, with 28 pieces of ordnance,
looked forward with enthusiasm to the day when they
were to be led to the assault of Mellown, represented
as a chef d'ceuvre of "the Burmese art of fortification,
upon which had retired the broken army of the enemy,
reinforced by the reserve of 15,000 men under Prince

Mellown was situated on the west bank of the
Irrawaddy, and was separated from the advancing
column by that deep and rapid river, the navigation
of which it completely commanded. The distance
from Prome to Ava, the capital, and the ultimate
destination of the army, was some 300 miles by land,
and the journey promised to be very toilsome, parti-
cularly for the artillery. The commissariat carried a
stock of provisions for two months, and arrangements
were made for further supplies to be forwarded by
water. Under these conditions the British army, on
the 9th December, in the best of spirits, commenced
its march up country in search of the enemy. The
incidents of the march to Mellown are detailed in the
diary kept by George Pollock, and I think I shall
best consult the wishes of my readers if I allow the
subject of this memoir to lay them before us in his

142 Life of Sir George Pollock.

own concise language, merely making explanatory
interpolations where considered necessary:

" December 6tk. Sir Archibald Campbell marched his division
to Zeoup this morning. I went to Prome about drivers, and
Captain Snodgrass (the military secretary) sent me one sirdar
and fifty Burmahs. Every man had his oar, supposing he was
to row a boat ! Having got rid of these oars, and explained to
them that they were to drive bullocks, I took them with me to
camp. On my arrival I found orders had been sent for me to
move to the bend of the river, as being more safe, and these
Burmahs (only then hired, and night coming on) were all I had
to depend upon, except twenty that remained of those from

" 7th and 8tk. Halted. On the latter day received an order
to march next morning.

" Qth. Marched to Zeoup (of which the proper name appears
to be Natalain, Zeoup being a short distance off) this morning,
with Burmah drivers. They behaved very well. Sir A . Camp-
bell's commissariat appears to be without end ; he left this
ground this morning, and the provisions are likely to be passing
through our camp all day. Lawrenson joined us with one
6-pounder and two 5^-inch howitzers.

" 10th and 11th. Halted on the 9th. Two companies of
Sepoys were sent to Simbike to see if the enemy had returned
since we were there. The scene witnessed was disgusting, and
the putrid smell perceptible long before they reached the place ;
none of the bodies had been buried, and apparently no one had
been there since. Sir A. Campbell went to Wattegaum on the
10th, the scene of the repulse of Colonel Macdowell and his
party. Not a soul did Sir A. Campbell find, and it is now
supposed that the enemy have retired even to Mellown. We
march to-morrow.

" \1ih December. To-day we were to have marched, but the
weather prevented us. It rained the whole night, and has
rained the whole of this day without cessation. Cholera has
appeared among us, and is alarmingly prevalent among the
European part of the force. An uncomfortable, wet day, and
as a commencement to our march rather disheartening.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 143

" loth December. The weather somewhat clearer ; no rain,
but heavy clouds threatening a deluge. Early in the morning
the march was ordered at ten o'clock. Fortunately, the day
continued cloudy. After advancing a mile we entered a forest
of teak-trees. They were thickly studded, some very large, but
the generality very small. The road was tolerably good, the
soil, generally speaking, sandy, like the bed of a river. The
short and abrupt turns necessary to avoid trees made it difficult
to move quickly with four-wheeled carriages, new bullocks, and
Burmah drivers. "We marched eight miles and seven furlongs,
and encamped (still in the forest) on the edge of a swamp ; a
most irregular camp, fronting the road we had come by, and
with hardly room to move in. The guns arrived about half-past
three P.M. A signal-gun (for the flotilla) was fired at eight
o'clock P.M. Cholera has increased j the doctor of the 89th
Regiment told me there had been twenty-one cases since the
preceding morning, of which four had proved fatal; nine
patients in a dangerous state had been sent to Prome. Our
tent was near their hospital, and their groans were truly

" 14^. This morning the sky was clear. We marched at
eight A.M., and reached our ground at half-past twelve, through
a forest the whole of the way till within a few hundred yards of
our encampment. The distance marched is eight miles, seven
and a half furlongs. We are rather above ISTeoun-ben-Zeik, and
close to the banks of the river the flotilla in sight. The view
of the Arracan hills from the banks of the river is very splendid
and very extensive. Before we marched this morning I saw
the doctor of the 89th, who told me he had had twelve fresh
cases of cholera ; four have died, the rest very ill. The forest
was somewhat variegated in appearance to-day. Teak of very
large size prevailed, but in parts the bushes of small male
bamboo were so thick we could at times see only a few yards in
every direction. We are still surrounded with trees, tamarind
chiefly, and the ground is covered with long grass and under-
wood. There has been a village here called Mayoun."

The long grass referred to is that usually called by
natives of India " elephant grass. " It grows to a

144 Life of Sir George Pollock.

height of fifteen or twenty feet, and at this season of
the year, owing to the recent heavy rains, it had col-
lected so much wet that the soldiers were completely
deluged from the water showered down upon them as
they marched through the jungle.

Kothing could have been more wretched than the
circumstances under which the march from Prome to
Mayoun had been conducted. Sir A. Campbell's
division in advance had, equally with the Madras
column, been ravaged with cholera, and rendered
unspeakably miserable by reason of the inclemency
of the weather, and the utter want of those neces-
saries that even soldiers on the march through a
hostile country are accustomed to look for from the
ministrations of a commissariat corps. However,
matters now began to mend somewhat. Colonel
Pollock writes in his diary,

December. This morning the weather was very fine,
though decidedly not cold enough to suit my taste ; the sky was
clear, with hardly a cloud. I forgot to mention that I had a
complaint yesterday from my Burmah drivers that some Euro-
peans had beaten or ill-treated them on the march. I imme-
diately reported it to the General, who has issued an order on
the s abject. I arrived in Calcutta this day twenty- two years

" ~L6tk. We marched this morning at eight o'clock, and
reached our ground at three P.M., little more than nine miles,
and encamped at a place called Peemboup, on a clear oval spot
about 800 yards in length, and covered with doob grass growing
more luxuriantly than I ever recollect. The number of sick is
still very great, and I had to carry upon the guns and waggons
thirty-seven European soldiers. Our march during the whole
way was through a thick jungle, here and there some superb

Life of Sir George Pollock. 145

tamarind-trees, and occasionally the small female bamboo
growing in clusters, but so contiguous that it appeared im-
pervious ; on either side of the road the tops met over our
heads, forming an arch, and sometimes completely shaded us
from the sun for some hundred yards. We passed through a
deserted stockade about two miles in extent, tremendously
strong from the nature of the ground, formed by the extremity
of a range of hills. Had the Burmahs defended them our loss
must have been very severe ; the road through these stockades
was execrable, and fatigued both men and bullocks much, more
indeed than all the rest of the march. About a mile on this the
north side of these stockades, was another, very regularly built,
about 300 yards square. An old priest who remained said the
enemy had deserted it about seven days before. Sir Archibald
Campbell's son passed our camp on his way to join his father,
having just arrived at Calcutta. I am told the cases of cholera
are not so violent as they were.

"UJtJi December. The halt to-day will, I hope, be of service to
my poor bullocks, who had hard work yesterday, and had it not
been for a nullah two miles in front, which requires a bridge, we
should have gone on four or five miles, and I should perhaps have
reached the ground about sunset. To-day, it is said, we wait
for the commissariat."

The halt was necessary in consequence of the force
encountering an impassable nullah. During this
day the pioneers and strong working parties were
engaged, under the direction of the engineer officer,
in constructing a bridge, while the commissariat
officer was employed in bringing up the provisions.

" 18th and ~L9th. On the 18th we marched at eight A.M., and
reached our ground, Ing-goun, at three P.M., having travelled
over almost fourteen miles. As usual, the artillery was left
to find its own way. Sir Archibald Campbell was en-
camped near Ing-goun, about a mile off. Bather an extensive
plain was covered with doob grass, on which we encamped.

" On the 19th we halted, and expected to remain a day or two


146 Life of Sir George Pollock.

longer, but at night we received orders to join Sir A. Campbell,
in consequence of his division not being able to proceed. The
47th, with the artillery, occupied the spot. Sir A. Campbell
left during the day of the 19th.

" 20th. Marched at seven A.M. Passed through Meeayday, and
encamped at eleven A.M. with Sir Archibald Campbell above it.
Meeayday must have been of some consequence long ago ; there
are the remains of old brick walls. The enemy's works extended
two or three miles above Meeayday. We passed many of their
soldiers dead and dying of hunger and disease, a horrible sight.
My guns are now driven by Burmahs, Madras pioneers, Syces,
grass-cutters, and gun Lascars, a motley crew, but I had to look
to them for the advance of the Bengal Foot Artillery. General
Cotton aided as much as in his power, and the men fortunately
were willing, but my anxiety was none the less.

"21st. Sir A. Campbell issued orders for the Body-guard,
Horse Artillery, and H.M.'s 41st and 89th to march this day at
seven A.M., the Foot Artillery, with three native corps, at ten.
"We travelled over a tolerable road for four and a half miles,
when we came to some old stockades, some of them only begun
and some fallen to decay, as usual, extensive. We went on about
three or four miles, the road gradually getting worse, when we
were informed that it was so completely blocked up with Sir A.
Campbell's baggage and commissariat that we were obliged
to return to the stockades. As water was not procurable nearer,
we retraced our steps, and encamped as directed, the ground
strewed in various directions with dead Burmahs ; many also
seen on the road. (Camp Keannagah, four and a half miles
from Meeayday.)"

The sights that met his eye must have reminded
George Pollock of the horrors perpetrated by Holkar
on the fugitives of Monson's broken army in the year
when he commenced his military career in India.
The scene of death and misery around Meeayday has
been vividly pourtrayed by an eye-witness. Within
and around the stockades the ground was strewn

Life of Sir George Pollock. 147

with dead and dying, lying promiscuously together,
the victims of wounds, disease, and want; in one
spot 200 dead bodies were counted. Here and there
a small white pagoda marked where a man of rank
lay buried; while numerous newly -made graves
denoted that the corpses strewn around were merely
the remnants of mortality left above ground owing
to the hurried departure of the enemy. The beach
and neighbouring jungles swarmed with dogs and
vultures waiting to gorge themselves with their
horrid repast. The camp that night, what with the
growling and screaming of these creatures, and the
pestilential and foul smell of this Golgotha, must
have been a very undesirable place of repose. But
these were not all that met the eye and assailed the
nose. The sensibilities of the soldiers, even of the
most hardened of them, must have been shocked by
the sight of numerous gibbets, on each of which were
extended the mouldering remains of the victims cruci-
fied by the mandates of the bloodthirsty chieftains,
who thus visited such offences as wandering in search
of food, or flying from the enemy. For fifty miles
up the river beyond Meeayday, similar horrors met
the gaze of the troops, and Snodgrass relates that
so thickly were these wretched victims of war strewn
around, that " on some of the grounds for encamp-
ment it was difficult to find room for pitching the
tents without previously removing some dead bodies
from the spot."

The Bengal commissariat i'ailing in its supply of

10 *

148 Life of Sir George Pollock.

beef for the Europeans, the division from that
Presidency was halted until cattle could be obtained
from the people of the district, while the Commander-

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 11 of 40)